Let's Make This a Successful School Year For Our ADD/ADHD Kids

A successful year for ADD/ADHD kids involves helping them focus better and requiring the school systems to supply necessary assists, even if they claim they "do not have the resources."


Comments from the NEUROLOGIST

As this is the middle of August, we are all starting to think about sending kids back to school.  Parents are also starting to think about the school problems their kids had last year.

What can we do better as parents to make this school year successful? What can I as a physician do better to ensure that kids can work up to their potential?

A large percentage of kids I treat had an improvement in grades 2 to 3 letter grades, from C’s and D’s to A’s and B’s which amazed their parents, and sometimes even amazed me, as the neurologist.  For some kids, when I write a script for a stimulant, it works like a charm, quickly and without problems or side effects, and the parents are delighted, and the kids usually are proud of themselves, and tell me that “now, I’m on the honor roll” for the first time. These kids have a whole new idea of themselves, they know they can do the schoolwork and they don’t think about themselves as “stupid” kids anymore.

But for other kids, my script for stimulant #1 has side effects, they lose weight quickly or can’t sleep, and my script for stimulant #2 is a dud, as they say they don’t feel any different, and my script for stimulant # 3 is a failure as they say they still can’t focus in classes.

It’s these kids that I worry about, that what are we missing in neurology and our understanding of how the brain works. We have tons we don’t know about how the brain learns and we have to admit that truth to parents who want their kids to succeed in school. For the kids where I prescribe three different stimulants, and they all fail to do the job, I have to do an educated guess as to what many assists I can put in place for this specific kid. For some kids, I find I just have to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication, because they have hated school so long that they are nervous and anxious about going to school and learning. Often I explain to the kids and the parents that when they are nervous, that the brain releases excessive stress chemicals that land on the hippocampus,  (one of the main places in the brain  that is necessary for learning) and stops learning from happening.  Often, I advise diet and exercise changes that have been effective for many kids.

If my prescriptions can’t change the situation between the kids and their school, I usually know I ‘m going to have to refer them to the lawyer next door who specializes in helping parents obtain detailed 504’s and IEP’s because these kids will only have a chance of succeeding in school when we pull in all the resources I can suggest.

Comments from the ATTORNEY

For some kids, they have gone too long not succeeding in school. They will need a detailed plan on who should be pulled in to help them from the school system. The problem is that too many school systems have been telling parents “We know that your child would do better in school with many assists, but we don’t have the money”. Too many parents I see have believed the school system, and go home defeated. BUT this is not the law in our country.  The law does NOT say that every student has the right to a “free appropriate public education” except if the school system pleads poverty and says it cannot afford to provide an appropriate education or does not have the resources to do so.

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WoodburyResident August 11, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I wish the lawyer had suggested some solutions for the school's 504/IEP teams instead of immediately assuming the school would be resistant. Parents of children with ADD/ADHD could then take these suggestions into meetings with them. Besides the obviously costly outplacement, what interventions does the lawyer see schools unwilling to try because of cost/lack of resources? Parents need this details to knowledgeably go into these meetings.
Michael Kaufman and Madeleine Kitaj August 11, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Often the "cost" question comes up in the context of reduced services between year 1 and year 2. One parent told me that her child's speech therapy was being reduced from 5 days/week to 2 days/week. She was told that cost was a factor. Sometimes the school is up front about cost being the problem. Other times not. One parent was told that "you have the means to get your own tutor. We can't afford it."
Michael Stokes August 13, 2012 at 01:50 AM
I wonder if therapy is an option you would consider referring these children out? I have a mental health practice on the Naugatuck/Middlebury line (Stokes Counseling Services) where I see many children with have ADHD/ADD. These children often lack the coping skills to deal with these symptoms effectively. Children often need the skills to help slow them down a bit, increase their focus, and help with organization. With the children I see in my practice, medication management is often helpful in conjunction with counseling.


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